Just like any other sport, ice skating has competitions ranging in scope, professional preparation and recognition. Starting with those who are just beginning their bright careers as ice skaters to those who have mastered their skill to the finest detail, everyone needs a place where they could display their achievements and perform in front of an enthusiastic audience. So, let’s see where does one start and what does one aspire to in the world of ice skating.
From all the youngsters preparing performances for their friends and families all the way to already established skaters, amateur ranks can offer interesting competitions for everyone. They exist on regional, national and international levels. One of the most established amateur competition industries is in the USA. There they have intricate structures for how regional and national competition should look like and the freestyle competitions are strictly divided into levels: pre-preliminary, preliminary, pre-juvenile, juvenile, intermediate, novice, junior, and senior. That, however, does not necessarily refer to the skater’s age but rather the level of advancement, the moves they can perform and freestyle performance they can present. Other countries that also have prominent numbers of national amateur ice skating competitions include Canada, Russia, Japan, the UK, and Australia among others. International amateur championships are held annually and hosted by ISU (International Skating Union) member countries. They include competitions such as Grand Prix, Junior Grand Prix, European and Four Continents championships and, of course, the Olympics.
The Olympic games do indeed classify as an amateur competition, but despite that it is the most prestigious and one-of-a-kind event for most sportsmen, and ice skaters are not an exception. The skaters must be at least 15 to enter the competition and they compete for gold, silver and bronze medals in their respective disciplines – pairs, singles and teams. Women’s, men’s and pairs’ events have been a part of the Olympics ever since 1908, with the addition of ice dancing in 1976.
Interestingly, most often in order to compete in a professional ice skating competition one must receive an invitation. The lucky ones are usually extremely accomplished skaters, many of whom have received at least one Olympic gold medal. They have to pass their senior-level tests, compete at national competitions, and in general be very high-profile and well-performing sportsmen and sportswomen. The fame is a crucial factor if one is to be invited to participate in such an event – television ratings are a high priority for the organizers, and since a lot of people watching cannot distinguish intricate differences in techniques and precision of movement execution, one way of surely attracting people’s attention is by using famous and well-established names. In such competitions, there are usually two numbers – a technical and an artistic one. The technical program is defined by various tricks, such as triple jumps, footwork sequences and spins, whereas the artistic number has more emphasis on the presentation and style.